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Opening the Range: Reforms to Allow Markets for Voluntary Conservation on Federal Grazing Lands

  • Shawn Regan,
  • Temple Stoellinger,
  • Jonathan Wood
  • Abstract

    For nearly a century, the federal government has authorized ranchers to graze livestock on large areas of federal lands in the western United States. Federal-land grazing has generated substantial conflict in recent decades, as conservation interests and others have lobbied and litigated against what they view as inappropriate and destructive use of federal lands. This has produced a predictable backlash among ranching interests, including efforts to roll back the regulations relied on by environmental litigants and aggressive confrontations with federal regulators. But such conflict is not inevitable. Competing demands on these lands can be resolved through voluntary means and positive incentives for conservation practices, as they often are on private lands. On public lands, however, federal law erects substantial barriers to this market approach by imposing use-it-or-lose-it rules on federal grazing permits. In this article, we discuss those barriers and offer statutory and regulatory reforms that would overcome them while facilitating markets for conservation on federal grazing lands. 


    Written By
    • Shawn Regan
      Shawn Regan
      • Vice President of Research

      Shawn Regan is a research fellow and vice president of research at PERC.  He is the executive editor of PERC Reports.

    • Temple Stoellinger
      Temple Stoellinger
      • Senior Fellow

      Temple Stoellinger is a PERC senior fellow and an assistant professor at the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming as well as co-director of the Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies.

    • Jonathan Wood
      • Vice President of Law & Policy

      Jonathan Wood is vice president of law and policy at PERC, leading PERC’s Conservation Law and Policy Center.

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